1945: After the thrill and danger of volunteering in an all-female searchlight regiment protecting Londoners from German bombers overhead, Evelyn Bell is secretly dismayed to be sent back to her rigid domestic life when the war is over. But then she comes across a secret night-time show, hidden from the law on a boat in the middle of the Thames. Entranced by the risqué and lively performance, she grabs the opportunity to join the misfit crew and escape her dreary future.
At first the Victory travels from port to port to raucous applause, but as the shows get bigger and bigger, so too do the risks the performers are driven to take, as well as the growing emotional complications among the crew. Until one desperate night …
1963: Lucy, an unloved and unwanted little girl, is rescued by a mysterious stranger who says he knows her mother. On the Isle of Wight, Lucy is welcomed into an eclectic family of ex-performers. She is showered with kindness and love, but gradually it becomes clear that there are secrets they refuse to share. Who is Evelyn Bell?
Today it is my pleasure to have Kerri Turner back on the blog. I had great fun talking with Kerri about her novel The Daughter of Victory Lights back in April, so I was thrilled when she agreed to come back for a Christmassy chat.
Hi Kerri! Thanks so much for joining me on my blog!
Your second novel, The Daughter of Victory Lights was released earlier this year, and has been one of my favourite historical fiction reads of 2020. Can you tell us a little bit about the book and what inspired you to write it?
Thank you so much! The Daughter of Victory Lights is a historical fiction novel about Evelyn Bell, a woman who works in the first ever all-female searchlight regiment in England during WW2. We see the dangers she faces, and the truths she learns about herself; we also follow her as, post-war, she finds society’s expectations that she return to domestic life unbearable. She thwarts those expectations by joining a travelling burlesque show, becoming their lighting technician. A decade later, a ten year old girl called Lucy tries to discover the truth about what happened to Evelyn, and how that shaped her own life. The first spark of an idea for this book came to me in a dream. I wouldn’t usually try to turn my dreams into a novel, but the very next day I saw some archival footage at a museum which so closely resembled the dream that I took it as a sign. The difficult part was that I only had a setting and a moment in time, and no story to go with it yet. I started to research, and came across information about the all-female searchlight operators. I was so inspired by these women, and their bravery and skill that still goes unrecognised today, that I knew I’d found my story. Then I learned about the American men of the Graves Registration Units, and everything came together. Introducing readers to unknown women and men who changed the course of history and contributed to the world in significant and underappreciated ways is something that always excites and inspires me.
Do you like to read seasonal books, and do you have a favourite Christmas story or book?
I love reading seasonal books in December – although 2020 being the year it was, I actually started in November this year, and read Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb, and The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand before December even arrived. My favourite Christmas book might not be a very original answer, but I adore Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. It has such a timeless message. I also like to pair it with a reading of the delightful Mr Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva.
I get the sense from your Instagram account that you are a fellow Christmas lover! I’m curious to know whether you would ever write a Christmas novel of your own?
Haha, I’m glad that comes across! I would love to write a Christmas novel, but I also work very instinctively with choosing what to write next. Every idea that I have, big or small, gets written down, and at some point I get a little unexplainable pull in my gut when looking at one of those ideas. It’s a feeling that tells me I’m looking at the beginning of my next book. I never ignore that feeling, and I never try to force it to happen (no matter how much I might love a particular idea!). Nothing Christmas-themed has sparked that pull yet, but who knows? Maybe one day…
Is there a particular book you’d love to find under your Christmas tree this year?
It’s no big shock that I ask for lots of books every Christmas, but this year I’m particularly hoping for Dolly Parton’s new book Songteller. I think the exploration of her lyrics, and how they were inspired by or connect to her own life, will make for a very interesting read – both as a writer, and a big Dolly fan.
Do you have a favourite book you’ve read this year then you’ll be recommending (or giving as a Christmas present!) to everyone you know?
It came out in 2018, but I read Catching Teller Crow by Ambelin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina for the first time this year, and haven’t been able to stop raving about it. I’ve read it in both paperback and audiobook format, and both are incredible. It’s moving, surprising, creative, and achieved the rare feat of making me go completely still and silent. It’s quite small in size, so would make a perfect stocking stuffer or Secret Santa gift for someone!
Can you share a favourite Christmas tradition or memory, or recipe?
My parents always worked hard to make our Christmases special growing up, and as a result every childhood Christmas memory I have has melded together in this one beautiful memory. Either myself, my brother, or my sister would wake up while it was still dark, rouse the other two, and we’d take the filled stockings off our doorknobs and gather in one room to empty them together. Then we’d take a torch (prepared with fresh batteries the previous night), sneak down our very long hallway into the living room, and shine a light under the tree to see all the presents. We’d spy who got the biggest one, find the Cadbury stockings we got every year, and discover all the hidden edible goodies scattered around the room. Then we’d check that Santa had tasted his cookies and milk (or sometimes beer if the mood struck us to be funny), and read the letter he left us. A quick sneak outside to check the reindeers ate their carrots, then it would be back to our rooms to play with the contents of our stockings until the designated time when we were allowed to wake my parents up and start opening presents – after Mum and Dad had fortified themselves with coffee, of course. The whole morning had this sense of togetherness and anticipation that was just magical.
Finally, are you able to tell us a bit about what you are working on next?
I’ve actually got two books I’ve been working on. They’re both at pretty advanced stages in terms of having done endless drafts, but I don’t have any publishing news I can share yet. Both books are historical fiction, and similar to my last two books they have complex women at the centre of them, working in roles that have them facing challenging circumstances, and both feature different performing arts quite heavily (although in very different ways). I hope I’ll be able to share something more concrete in the future – watch my social media for any announcements!
I am honestly having the best time hearing about people’s Christmas traditions and favourite books – I can’t thank Kerri (and my other lovely blog guests) enough for sharing with me here!
Author Bio – Kerri Turner
Kerri Turner is an Australian author of two historical fiction novels, The Last Days of the Romanov Dancers (2019 HQ) and The Daughter of Victory Lights (2020 HQ). Having trained for a career as a ballet dancer, she eventually realised her love for dance stemmed from the history surrounding it, and the complex stories told in the classical ballets. She turned this passion into words, writing historical novels and anthology contributions that connect to the performing arts across different countries and many different eras.
Her short stories have appeared with the Dangerous Women Project, Catchfire Press, Underground Writers, Stringybark, and Reflex Fiction, and she has appeared as a public speaker for the Heroine’s Festival, Adult Learner’s Week, and Internation Women’s Day.
When not writing, she can be found teaching over 55’s tap dancing and ballet classes, or baking sweet treats.